In late 2021 Beijing deployed a pair of new Type 056A corvettes bearing the hull numbers 666 and 667 to Hong Kong to replace the existing early model Type 056 corvettes Qinzhou and Huizhou, which have for some eight years formed the core of the PLA Navy’s modest contingent based in the former British colony.
The new warships, unlike their predecessors, have substantial anti-submarine capabilities in the form of both towed array and variable depth sonars. In addition to mounting anti-submarine sensors, the ships feature armament that includes a 76-millimetre gun, two 30-milimetre cannon, and YJ-83 anti-shipping cruise missiles.
According to some local reports, corvette 666 bears the name Suqian. If these reports are correct, it indicates that the ship has been allocated a name previously assigned to an early model Type 056, which has probably, like other older ships of the class, been converted to a patrol ship and transferred to the China Coast Guard.
Analysts are speculating that this modernisation of Hong Kong’s naval flotilla might indicate Beijing’s belief that the Special Administrative Region has increased strategic relevance at a time when tensions over Taiwan, and Asia’s seaways, are continuing to rise.
Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police. He is Baird Maritime's resident maritime security expert and columnist.